On Sunday, September 24th, 2017, over 200 players in the National Football League decided to sit or kneel during the playing of the National Anthem of the United States. In a widely controversial manner, the first player to refuse to stand during the national anthem was Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 preseason games; however, this topic is only truly starting to get heavy media attention because of Donald Trump having different views than some NFL players. Many of the 200 players kneeling or sitting were not doing so to protest injustice, but to protest Trump’s statements.
In an interview on August 28th, 2016, Kaepernick said he was racially oppressed, but oddly enough, managed to sign a 6-year $126-million contract just two years earlier in 2014 with $61 million guaranteed. This is astronomically higher than the average Americans will make in their entire lives, never mind 6 years, and America is a very rich country nonetheless. Now, aren’t these NFL players making millions of dollars proof that they are able to make it in America, through the “oppression” they face? In my opinion, it was a terrible idea to choose the Flag to ‘protest’ and therefore disrespect. There are so many other ways of bringing up this topic, and disrespecting the Anthem and Flag is one of the worst in my opinion.
Yes, under the First Amendment, they absolutely have the right to protest in this manner; however, the discussion is not if they have the right to stand, but if they should stand. Many veterans of the U.S. military physically cannot stand because of injuries sustained while serving their country. It is disrespectful not to stand when you are able to. Many people on the Left applaud the NFL kneeler, but called out Mike Pence for leaving a Colts game last week after the playing of the National Anthem in which he saw several players kneel for. The Left called him out for leaving, but would not acknowledge that he has the right to do that as well.
At the annual NFL game in London, England just a few weeks ago, members of the Jacksonville Jaguars kneeled for the playing of the U.S. National Anthem, but stood for the British Anthem, God Save the Queen. They refused to stand for the Anthem of the country that allows them to make millions, but will stand for foreign countries’ Anthems, which to me, makes no sense whatsoever. One player named LeSean McCoy, a running back for the Buffalo Bills, decided to stretch while lying on the ground during the anthem in a game this year. This for me is the definition of disrespect to his country, one that that allowed him to be paid $10,375,000 in 2017. Later, on September 24th, the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin, decided his team would ‘not participate’ for the National Anthem; instead, he concluded that they would stay in the locker room. In an act of defiance and pure bravery, one player decided to disobey the decision of his head coach, and went near the tunnel to stand for the National Anthem, with his hand on his heart. Alejandro Villanueva, a left tackle, is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army. Later that day and in the coming days, this previously seemingly unheard of player became the number 1 sold jersey in the NFL. This truly speaks volumes, in that people will go out and spend $150 on a player who most of them have never heard of, just because he was the only player on his team to come out for the Anthem.
The average salary for someone in the United States military is $20,000-$30,000 a year, while the average NFL salary is almost $2,000,000 a year. According to the Department of Defense website, the maximum someone in the United States military can make per year is $186,998.40. And even then, only three people in the entire army comprised of over 1,000,000 soldiers make that much in basic salary per year. In the NFL, on the other hand, the average salary of $2,000,000 is 100 times that of the average salary of someone in the United States military. The highest paid NFL played in 2017 is Matthew Stafford, who will be racking in $51,000,000. In comparison, the highest paid NFL player will be making approximately 272 times that of the highest paid person in the U.S. military. These 1,000,000+ individuals put their entire lives on the line for the NFL players’ freedom, they are not forced to, but they chose to. They dedicate their lives to serving and protecting the country so that disrespectful NFL players such as Colin Kaepernick can make millions throwing a football while kneeling for the Flag that men and women have fought to defend.
Many polls have been released in the past few weeks showing the severe decrease in NFL viewership and ticket sales. Even the hashtag, #BoycottNFL has trended on Twitter. Many liberal news sources say that NFL ratings have dropped by ~15%, while other sources say even higher, up to and around 20% in some cases. This evidence is absolutely conclusive that Americans, who are notorious for being NFL fans, will give up watching games if their country is not shown respect by the players and even the league.
The NFL is absolutely complicit in this situation. They allow players to kneel for the national anthem, but would not let certain players, and threatened to fine said players for wearing shoes commemorating 9/11 (in the end, the NFL decided to let them wear the shoes and decided not to fine them after public outrage.) In another instance last year, Cowboys players wanted to put a decal on their helmet honoring 5 cops who were slain while on-duty. The NFL would not let them wear these decals.
There are many questions regarding the legality of NFL executives potentially benching players for not standing for the Anthem. There are many arguments on both sides, and time will tell whether the NFL will make their players stand for the Anthem or not. According to Stewart J. Schwab, Jonathan and Ruby Zhu Professor of Law, Cornell University: "The player who does not stand can be [accused of] conduct detrimental to the public confidence in the NFL. Employment law allows private sector employers great latitude in restricting employee conduct and speech while at work." In the case of the Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones, wanting to bench his players for not standing, Michael J. Golden, lecturer, trial advocacy program, University of Texas said: "In order for professional football teams to be the most competitive they can be, the CBA gives management significant rights to decide who plays and who doesn't -- and ultimately who gets cut and who gets kept. The CBA pretty much guarantees that coaches and management decide, without review, who plays and who does not. It would be lawful for the Cowboys to have a rule that only people who voted for a particular party in the last election could play for the team. While this rule might be a bad idea, it wouldn't violate the law. There are no additional Texas laws that apply here."
People are saying that NFL owners are not hiring Kaepernick because he spoke out. This is not true. Since 2007, among all quarterbacks with 1,500 dropbacks, no quarterback has been sacked more often than Kaepernick, getting sacked on 8.3 percent of his dropbacks. Sacks are a huge turn-off for coaches, as the down is finished, and it often results in negative yardage. Kaepernick was also ranked 30th in the league in defense-adjusted yards above replacement in 2016. According to many fantasy football sites last year (such as profootballfocus.com), he was ranked last in the league out of all starting quarterbacks.
Every time I see on the news of another soldier who has died in combat, every funeral has one thing in common: the draping of the United States’ Flag over the casket of the dead soldier. This is because that is exactly what they died for, the Flag, that very Flag, representing America and the citizens and people, the very Flag these NFL players are disrespecting.
To conclude, I do think everyone who is able to should stand for the National Anthem, but I would not make it illegal to sit or kneel during it. The Flag and the Anthem are, and always have been a symbol of unity and patriotism which with NFL players, fans, coaches, Donald Trump, and Mike Pence should all show great respect.
“We shouldn’t protest the one symbol we have in common. We have so few now as it is.” - Ben Shapiro